New Threats Bring Middle East Closer to War

Syrian President Bashar Assad has threatened to ignite a firestorm in the Middle East by promising an immediate attack on Israel if NATO takes military action against his beleaguered government. According to Iran’s Fars news agency, Assad told Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu at a meeting on Tuesday, October 4, “I won’t need more than six hours to transfer hundreds of rockets to Golan to fire at Tel Aviv”.

He went on to say that the attacks will not be limited to Israel. “All these events will happen in three hours, and in the following three hours, Iran will attack the US warships in the Persian Gulf and the US and European interests will be targeted simultaneously,” Assad said, according to FARS.

He was not exaggerating; what he threatened may well be possible. The rockets (and missiles) are there, provided to Syria and Hezbollah by Iran over the past five years. Some are already in position.

His words must have fallen on welcoming ears, even though Turkey is now taking a hard line against its neighbor. Under the direct leadership of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey has been rattling sabers throughout the region, raising the specter of war that will go beyond the narrow confines of national borders. In recent weeks, Turkey has begun a campaign of harassment against Israel’s merchant marine in the Mediterranean, threatening Cyprus’ off-shore gas exploration site, promising to protect a planned blockade-busting flotilla against Israel with it navy, and, yesterday, imposing undetermined  sanctions on Syria’s Assad government.

A third player in the growing list of antagonists is Iran, which has supported Assad throughout the latest unrest. Syria has been a client state of Iran for many years, because of its strategic importance as both a land-bridge to Lebanon and a seaport on the Mediterranean. Now less sure of the outcome in Syria, as demonstrations continues and world opinion lines up against the Assad government, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has hedged his bets by strengthening Iran’s position in the Persian Gulf, and by sending at least two of its ships into the Red Sea. The Red Sea is a long, narrow dead-end channel which is bordered by Egypt, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia, and ends at Israel’s southern port, Eilat. Iran’s presence there is highly inflammatory.

Lebanon is the step-child in the growing Middle East environment of revolt and retaliation. Its role has been largely overshadowed by the rolling revolutions of the past year.

Lebanon has been largely taken over by Hezbollah, surrogate of Iran’s terror-supporting power network, and it may actually provide the spark that ends up igniting a much larger conflict. The recipient of massive transports of heavy weapons, rockets, sophisticated missiles, and personnel (thousands of Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps troops) from its patron, Iran, Lebanon is positioned to spearhead a major attack on its neighbor to the south – Israel.

The threat that Hezbollah poses to the region, however, goes further, not only targeting  Israel, but impacting the entire Middle East and beyond. Hezbollah possesses tens of thousands of Iranian-supplied rockets and missiles. Its vast network of underground tunnels, used to transport troops and weapons invisibly, and the presence of thousands of IRGC troops to support Hezbollah soldiers, represent a major threat, not only to Israel, but to the larger world arena.

The complexities of the increasingly violent and wide reaching ‘Arab Spring’ are compounded by the apparent power struggle playing out on the Middle Eastern stage between Turkey’s Edgogan and Iran’s Ahmadinejad. This power struggle is not likely to be contained in the region, nor limited to Middle Eastern countries. The two men are both devout Muslims devoted to a violent jihad and share the dream of creating pan-Muslim community leading to a global Caliphate, although they no doubt differ in their views of who should be administering it.

The irresponsible words and actions of these three leaders can only be interpreted as threats of violence that must be taken seriously. Whatever their individual game plans, if their words are followed by actions that are interpreted as acts of war, then the result will be a major conflagration that will spread quickly.

An attack on Israel from Iran-backed Syria and/or Hezbollah will be met with a ferocity not yet seen in the region, and will not end in a single, cross-border conflict, as we have seen before. The interference of Iran, Turkey, and Western states compelled to become involved will become the most desperate of any war we have faced yet.

If our foreign policy continues down the road of interfering without leading, of creating chaos where there was previously order, it does not bode well for our own future. Now is the time for strong and insightful leadership from Washington to defuse the situation as quickly as possible, and move us back into a time where international options are decided around a negotiating table, not on the battlefield.

 

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Posted in Flashpoint, Middle East
12 comments on “New Threats Bring Middle East Closer to War
  1. Lance says:

    Unfortunately, I think war is inevitable. According to the book of Obadiah and other scriptures in the Bible, the surrounding nations of Israel will be crushed as they descend upon the Jews. (Judgment against Islam?) Damascus will be uninhabitable after it is destroyed. I believe many will think it is Armageddon because of the massive carnage and consequences; however, this will NOT be the battle of Armageddon as many might think. That is yet to come, and that will occur after the Russian attack on Israel. Fasten your seat belts as God’s prophetic word unfolds before our eyes.

  2. Amber says:

    People wake up….realize what it going on…Open your eyes and listen…watch.. for God has foretold us all these things…this is happening right in front of our eyes!!Prophecy is unfolding …Look and watch!!

    • Dezy says:

      Lebanese investigators monitoring cellphone usage in the vicinity of the car-bomb explosion that killed Hariri lucked into a breakthrough discovery. According to the report, the cellphones were used exclusively for phone calls among the alleged assassins, except for one instance when one of the suspects used a phone to call his girlfriend. From that single call, investigators figured out the name of the operative.

      Hariri was enormously popular among all Lebanese groups, and if it’s true that the United Nations tribunal has concluded that Hezbollah was behind the assassination, it would have a huge effect on the country, where a critical election is being held on June 7. What proceeded the turn to Hizbollah was Time magazine, May 13th and the big Der Spiegel blast (a very weird place to break the story) on May 23rd. I recommend this thread for more details, but here’s a warm up. The writer is Ggerman living in Germany. I personally know a bit or two about the Spiegel publications interior workings and the leaked Hariri story is quite curious: Spiegel is the biggest German news-magazine and the Hariri/Hezbollah story is part of next weeks print edition that will not be available for sale until Monday.

      The German Spiegel website carries some of the Spiegel print stories but only after the print edition published them. It mostly creates its own content. The English part of the Spiegel website carries translated stories from the German website and very few pieces from the print edition. Those usually with a few days timelag.This is the very first time I see a story from the German print edition pre-published on the (money losing) English Spiegel site while it is not even available on the (profitable) German Spiegel website.Someone really felt a huge urge to get the Hariri/Hezbollah story out in English very, very fast and pulled some serious string at the Spiegel chief-editor level to get that done. This might well be the same person(s) that leaked the story.

      One of the two Spiegel editors-in chief is Mathias Mfcller von Blumencron. He was Spiegel’s Washington and New York correspondent from 1996 to 2000 and still has excellent connections there. After 2000 he edited the Spiegel website, turned it to the right and introduced the English part. Since 2008 he is one of the two editors-in-chief of the whole Spiegel publishing group.

      Thanks to Mathias, the Spiegel English website has an exchange agreement with the New York Times website. Expect a reprint’ of the Hariri story there soon. Now, who gave Mathias that call? Also, Time magazine didn’t exactly break the spy story, they just broke it in the US. Hizbollah had been busting spies in conjunction w/the Lebanese police and government before these accusations surfaced, so there was plenty of motivation to put a stop to Hizbollah’s rise in Lebanon. Also, keep in mind the charges against Hizbollah center around this one cell phone call.

      Remember that explosive showdown when Hizbollah wanted to bypass the Lebanese phone system since they thought it was compromised? They have since indicted many of its employees but this started prior to these accusations surfacing about Hizbollah didn’t it? The whole thing is very fishy. More from Time magazine (circa 5/09 before the UN charges were made against Hizbollah: The Shi’ite militant organization suffered a blow last year with the assassination in Damascus of its security chief, Imad Mughniyah — wanted by the U.S. for his alleged involvement in a number of terrorist attacks, including the 1983 bombings of the U.S. embassy and a Marine headquarters in Beirut. Although Israel officially denied involvement in the hit, the Mossad was credited with authorship both by Hizballah and the Israeli public and media.

      Since then, Hizballah has stepped up its counterintelligence operations — ironically, with the help of Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces (ISF), the U.S.-trained national police force. Officials say the ISF three years ago began tracking Adeeb al-Alam, a former colonel in General Security, another state security branch. When the ISF intercepted communication between him and Israeli intelligence, they began working with Hizballah, and together extracted enough information from al-Alam — whom the Lebanese now believe has been spying for the past 25 years — to crack open eight other spy cells. since then dozens upon dozens of spies have been busted. Israel has lost it’s spy network in Lebanon, or a significant portion of it anyway.

  3. I couldn’t have really asked for a much better blog. You are always at hand to provide excellent information, going straight away to the point for easy understanding of your subscribers. You’re really a terrific pro in this arena. Many thanks for remaining there for humans like me.

    • Tobias says:

      , he lost to Clinton. Bush had wanted the Syrians in on the Iraq iniasvon only to prevent making it look like the west was ganging up on an Arab. Egypt for its participation which was mostly to let them use the canal was forgiven loans for $200 million by the US and Syria for simply being part of the team and really doing nothing was forgiven loans of $50 million and allowed to continue occupying Lebanon for 10 years after the civil war ended there and should have left. It was for the same gimmicky reason that Israel was bought off to not fire back at Saddam. Iraq I and II were both PR stunts; Remember the Hill and Knowlton incubator scam and Powell’s dog and pony show at the UN.About Hariri, the man was a big contributor to both Syria and Hizbullah. There are a dozen or so super palaces built in Syria by Hariri that he gave to Syrian VIPs. It was Hariri and his close relationship with Chirac and other world leaders that was keeping the dogs away from Syria’s door so the last to want to see Hariri dead would have been Syria. As to Hizbullah, he was very generous with this organization with both his own money and the government’s and he was also providing it with the international cover it needed as he was doing with Syria so there too killing the goose didn’t make sense. But that generosity towards Hizbullah was getting him into hot water in the States a couple of years before he was assassinated as the US Government was being lobbied to freeze his US assets because of his help to Hizbullah. These included Houston’s highest office tower, and various investments totalling over a billion in the high tech field. His building permit for one of Washington’s largest mansions (103,667 square feet) on the exclusive Foxhall Road was being held back. What is not known is what was his actual relationship with the Americans at the time of his assassination. Had he gotten on friendlier terms with the US and turned on Syria or Hizbullah, which would make these 2 suspects in his murder or was he refusing to turn on them and for this, the US and Israel would be the prime suspects as his death ended Syria’s and Hizbullah’s international protection and threw the area in turmoil as we’re now seeing with the tribunal stuff? We’ll probably never know but interestingly, after his death, his son became a frequent visitor to Bush’s White House, so the story could go both ways. I was a big fan of Hariri and because of Israel’s reputation, I also have to think Israel did it. Since Hariri’s death, Lebanon has been drifting without a rudder.

  4. Mick says:

    the middle east situation seems a little difficult at the minute, I just hope everything will work out eventually, there’s so much unrest over there

  5. Excellent information. Cheers for posting that. I was not aware of your web site, however definitely will come back much more often now. Including you to my RSS reader.

  6. Euro 2012 says:

    Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: “The heights by great men reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight, but they while their companions slept, were toiling upward in the night.” And so while we sleep, our enemies keep moving forward towards what must eventually be another world war, and we will be as responsible as they because we ignored all the warnings.

    • Michele says:

      to be based on ‘Inside investigative seocrus who were working on the Rafic Hariri assassination and they had now solved the mystery and the case could soon be wrapped up.’ Eye catching,” Lamb writes. “Nearly four years ago, precisely on October 24, 2005, Der Spiegel published Erich Follath’s report titled: Bye-Bye, Hariri. UN Report Links Syrian Officials to Murder of Former Lebanese Leader.” Lamb elaborates saying that during that time, Syria was accused by the western-backed March 14 bloc of allegedly committing the Hariri crime, without proof and even before the beginning of the international investigation. “A massive international anti-Syria campaign was launched by the Bush Administration and Israel to demonize its government (headed by Prime Minister Omar Karameh), Dr. Lamb recalls in his article. But things have changed, he says. This weekend, a new exclusive, secret, investigative report showing the real assassins was published by the same weekly, Der Speigel. Same author. Same editor. New target. “ Follath, according to Lamb, claimed solo that the international committee investigating the Hariri murder has finally cracked the long investigated case and reached “surprising new secret conclusions”, this time pointing to Hezbollah. The American analyst notes that the 2009 Der Spiegel article is similar to the 2005 piece in many respects. He points that similar to 2005, Follath claims in his 2009 report that the investigator’s “apparently want to hold back the information that they have been aware of for about a month”. There are signs that the investigation has yielded new and explosive results”, Spiegel has learned from seocrus close to the tribunal and verified by examining internal documents that the Hariri case is about to take a sensational turn”, Intensive investigations in Lebanon are all pointing to a new conclusion, this time that it was not the special forces of Syria, but instead special forces of Hezbollah that planned and carried out Hariri’s Feb. 2005 murder, the weekly said. During the same 2 weeks leading up to the Lebanese elections, VP Biden decided these were important enough for US interests to warrant his personal visit to the tiny speck of a country to give the pro-US team a helping hand:Biden, speaking to reporters after arriving in Lebanon amid tight security, warned that U.S. aid to Lebanon could be reconsidered in case of a win by Hezbollah, which Washington considers a terrorist organization. I do not come here to back any particular party or any particular person. I come here to back certain principles, Biden said after a meeting with President Michel Suleiman. We will evaluate the shape of our assistance programs based on the composition of the new government and the policies it advocates. (LA Times)andJoe Biden did not mention Hezbollah by name, or its foreign supporters, but correspondents said his statement was a clear warning to voters tempted to vote for the party or its allies. I urge those who think about standing with the spoilers of peace not to miss this opportunity to walk away, he said (BBC)That’s what you call meddling in other countries’ elections.

  7. Ruby Butera says:

    A round of applause for your blog article. You nailed it. Great!

    • Pushp says:

      Once again, whatever his ionentitn, VR is providing damage control for Israel. It has only been since the election of George W Bush and the sweeping of the Likudnik neocons into every nook and cranny of the executive branch, that Lebanon has become a primary target of US imperialism, and that Washington has adopted Israel’s enemies as its own. Under the presidency of his father and former CIA chief, GHW Bush, the US did no such thing. His holding of the Madrid peace conference in 1991 was the first presidential effort to bring all sides to the table to, yes, end the Israeli occupation. While Palestinian representation was filtered, giving the realities of the time, the holding of that conference and Bush’s arm twisting of the Shamir regime to get it to the table, was what led the Israelis, under Rabin, to get their boy, Arafat to send his sidekick Abbas, without a single lawyer, to Oslo, to negotiate a formal surrender of Palestinian territory and give legitimacy to the settlements.This is a story, along with Bush Sr.’s twice refusing to grant Israel its demand for $10 billion in loan guarantees, which those, like VR, who wish us to see Israel as nothing more than a client state, have done their very best to bury.In 1991, Bush Sr. also saw Syria as an ally in the coalition against Iraq and Israel as a liability. Against his will, he was forced by Congress to pay off Israel for staying out of that war, just one more point against his administration which is considered the most unfriendly to Israel since its unfortunate inception. To get a better idea of that relationship than you will get from Chomsky or from Vared (VR), Max Ajl, or anyone else with a similar mindset, I will once again recommend Broken Covenant: American Foreign Policy and the Crisis between the US and Israel, by Foreign Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Arens. It’s available, used, probably new from Amazon for a penny + $3.99 postage.Chomsky wrote me that I wasn’t interested in reading it but he might have read the Commentary Review which begins: By now, the fact that George Bush came into office determined to cut Israel down to size, both figuratively and literally, is reasonably well-known. So, too, is the fact that neither he nor his Secretary of State, James Baker, was overly scrupulous in the means employed to accomplish this goal. In the end, of course, Bush was defeated by Israel and its American agents and Bill Clinton was the beneficiary. Just so no one would make any mistake where he stood and whose flag he saluted, Clinton’s first act after deciding to run was to hire a former AIPAC staff member to head his campaign.As my friend, the late, great Israel Shahak, to use to say and write quite often, history is important. It’s a shame when people don’t pay attention to it.Unless you were wondering, I do think Israel was behind the Hariri assassination as well as the driving force behind the US pushing the US to create a tribunal what is without historical precedent and exists in violation of Lebanese laws. In fact, without the millions of dollars of US taxpayers money that has been funneled into the investigation and tribunal, it would be unable to function.

  8. Daniel in Brookline says:

    So, let me get this straight. Syria’s Assad is slaughtering his own people wholesale, and NATO has threatened to intervene. In response, Assad has said that, in response to a NATO strike, Syria would attack Israel.

    Excuse me? Israel isn’t a member of NATO. Why attack Israel in response to a NATO strike? Why not Hong Kong? Why not Antarctica?

    I can only think of two ways that this sort of comment makes any sense. Perhaps Assad’s irrelevant threats against Israel are his childlike attempt to threaten something he thinks NATO holds dear. (If so, he hasn’t been paying much attention.) Or perhaps this is a typical anti-Israel twitch, common to that part of the world: attack us and we’ll counterattack Israel. The heavy thunderstorms last week were Israel’s fault. Never mind that Syria is killing its own citizens by the thousands; the REAL problem in the Middle East is Israel, forcing Palestinians to go through TSA-like security checkpoints. To the extent that the “Arab Spring” is disadvantageous to Assad, it must be a Zionist Plot.

    (Humph. Show me where Menachem Begin is buried and I’ll show you a Zionist Plot.)

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